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The upper hand on OHS: hand protection in high risk industries

Supplier: Ansell Industrial Healthcare
05 June, 2014

Everyone knows mining is a dangerous industry and the risks are as numerous as the rewards.

Due to the inherent risks in mining and the severity of injuries that can occur on mine sites, there has been a huge push in recent years to overhaul safety standards for the mining, oil and gas industries to try and bring down accident rates and increase safety awareness.

This has led to the introduction or revision of a number of regulations relating to mine safety, particularly in regards to protective equipment and clothing.

Safety requirements and responsibilities

National workplace safety laws require all persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) where there has been an identified risk of injury or harm1. PPE does not eliminate the risk – an option that should be exhausted before relying on PPE – rather, it minimises the risk.

One of the more common forms of PPE is high visibility garments, such as shirts, pants vests and accessories such as socks, hats or gloves.

Australian Standard 4602.1:2011 specifies "the visual requirements for high visibility safety garments for occupational wear by people who may be exposed to the hazard of … moving plant or equipment in high-risk situations"2. While high visibility standards until now have not extended to hand protection there has been an aggressive push by safety managers and directors across industries to include this, and it's no wonder why.

According to the South Australian Mining & Quarrying OHS Committee, "hand injuries represent some of the most frequent and significant incidents in mining" and are the highest body location for occupational injury3. Hand injuries are also the most underreported of injuries, despite being one of the most relied upon body parts, and they are incredibly complex, making injuries difficult to repair and loss of function a likely possibility4.

This should be reason enough to make hand safety a top priority for high risk industries, such as mining.

Unfortunately, there has been pushback from workers who are wary of hand protection gear that may impair their movements, or new protective technologies that can provide higher level protection with more comfortable materials5. Many workers prefer thick leather gloves, believing they provide the best protection from cuts, despite new materials that provide a balance of cut protection, comfort and dexterity.

After back injuries, hand injuries are the second most commonly reported lost time injuries in Queensland mines, showing how something as simple as hand protection directly impacts the bottom line.

According to the Queensland government's Department of Natural Resources and Mines, the most common hand injuries, comprising 80 per cent of all serious injuries, are: fractures (30 per cent); lacerations, cuts and other open wounds (25 per cent); crush injuries (15 per cent) and traumatic amputations (9 per cent)6. Across industries, manufacturing and construction are the only industries with higher rates of hand industries.

Many mine workers conduct operations in hazardous night-time or low-light environments, making high visibility products an obvious choice to further mitigate risk of injury.

Solution

Ansell's ActivArmr range of high visibility protective gloves provide a level of hand protection, dexterity and comfort, while mitigating the risk of worker injury in low-light and low-visibility environments.

The range includes a number of options to suit a wide range of needs, including the Hi-Viz 97-013, a cut resistant glove that balances the mechanical performance and high visibility required for general applications in hazardous low-visibility requirements. An exclusive nitrile foam compound provides excellent grip in both wet and dry conditions, while 15-guage nylon liner offers superior comfort and dexterity.

The medium duty range provides a high degree of visibility with a retro-reflective logo on the back of the glove, coupled with a high–tech Techcor liner that protects the wearer from cuts and abrasions without hampering dexterity.

References

1) SafeWork Australia, "Personal Protective Equipment", 2012.

2) Standards Australia/New Zealand, "High Visibility Safety Garments", 2011.

3) South Australia Mining & Quarrying Occupational Health & Safety Committee, "Hand Safety in South Australian Mines & Quarries", 2011

4) Mining Safety South Africa, "Preventing Hand Injuries", 2013

5) Safety+Health, "Trends in hand protection", June 2013

6) Safety Institute of Australia, "Preventing Serious Hand Injuries in Mines", May 2013